Leo Tolstoy

Frankenstein 1931

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Anna Karenina Review

Director Joe Wright’s latest film, a lush and visually striking adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” is uniquely suited to the filmmaker’s tastes and tones. Joining his other love-struck and leading lady-centric films like Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, Wright again adapts well-tread material with an eye for emotion, dizzying and overwrought as it may be (or truly, as it can be). Utilizing a “theater-set” concept to frame up his film, Wright’s Anna Karenina offers up his most original film yet, but one that still fails to ultimately come together and connect with his audience. Tolstoy’s novel has been adapted countless times before and in a variety of mediums. While not a complicated story, the trials and tribulations of the young Mrs. Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) are still ripe for discussion and dissection, and Wright’s choice to keep the film in the book’s period setting does nothing to diminish its aching relatability. A dazzling society maven, Anna’s life centers on her husband (the beloved politician Alexei Karenin, Jude Law, whom she seems to simply admire, not adore), parties, and her young son. Mildly upended by the news of her brother’s (Matthew Macfadyen) cheating ways, Anna sets off to visit the broken family in Moscow and to help mend some long-simmering wounds. Upon her arrival in Moscow, she meets the dashing (sure) Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), and the pair eventually fall into an all-consuming affair that threatens to destroy every element of Anna’s life.

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Oh, look, Joe Wright went and directed a historically-set film based on a novel that stars Keira Knightley! I am positively shocked! This time around, Wright and Knightley are taking on no less than Tolstoy (after already going after Austen with Pride and Prejudice and McEwan with Atonement), with Wright directing his frequent muse as the eponymous character in Leo Tolstoy‘s enduring work, “Anna Karenina.” Wright’s Anna Karenina hews close to the basic story – Knightley’s Anna, a high society aristocrat, gets caught up in a consuming affair with the dashing Count Vronsky (Aaron Johnson, sporting one hell of a mustache) that has repercussions far beyond just her unsatisfying marriage to a smarmy-looking Jude Law as Alexei Karenin. It’s tragic, it’s sad, it’s Russian. So let’s see what Wright can do with it with the film’s first full trailer and an overly Moulin Rouge-d poster.

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Focus Features has just announced a helmer for their Anna Karenina adaptation penned by Tom Stoppard, and while it’s a bit of a no-duh assignment, it’s still a very fine one. Joe Wright will direct the film, adapted from Leo Tolstoy’s classic (read: every high school kid is assigned to read it, and none of them ever do) novel. Despite my more bookwormish tendencies, my familiarity with Anna Karenina is quite lacking, so we’ll turn to Focus’ plotline for the film, which tells us that “the story unfolds in its original late-19th-century Russia high-society setting and powerfully explores the capacity for love that surges through the human heart, from the passion between adulterers to the bond between a mother and her children. As Anna questions her happiness, change comes to her family, friends, and community.” Also, it’s Russian and it’s Tolstoy, so it’s also not a feel-good work by any stretch. But the film has a solid cast already attached to it, including some names that Wright has worked with before, including Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina (in her third role in a Wright production), with Jude Law as her husband Alexei Karenin, and Aaron Johnson as Count Vronksy, with other roles filled by Kelly Macdonald, Matthew Macfayden (Mr. Darcy in Wright’s Pride & Prejudice), Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Emily Watson, Olivia Williams (from Hanna), and Ruth Wilson.

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